Wednesday, 28 November 2012

A Diseased Tree and Two Disparate Housewives

Tues 27th. November. We drove toward Arhangelos with the ever-present reminders as to what time of year it is all around and ahead of us. Every so often the road bore evidence of weary olive-harvesters having already passed this way in their pickups, either taking their olives to the mill, or perhaps transporting precious logs for winter fuel homeward, the latter having deposited olive twigs and sprigs at regular intervals along the route. Josie, my friend and fellow writer (From Lindos With Love) had called and we had sprung into action (Thundergardeners are go, Scott!). One diseased tree near the house needed drastic surgery, plus there were various other odd jobs that she needed a bit of help with.

Soon thereafter I was up on a wall wielding the chainsaw to severely decrease the size of the ailing fruit tree, whilst the better half was strimming for all she was worth. As it happened, we'd arrived a little early for Josie and she'd gone off to shop for a while. It didn't matter, we knew what we had to get on with and do did so, safe in the knowledge that she'd soon be back home. The only problem which developed was, we'd forgotten where she leaves the house key and the old bladder soon began to require a decreasing of internal pressure. With Josie still not having returned, we decided a frappe was a good idea anyway and so walked the few minutes or so to Arhangelos' main street, where we flopped into a couple of chairs in the sunshine and - once the coffees were ordered, proceeded in shifts to go to the kafenion's loos.

I was reminded during my turn, whilst standing there in the semi-darkness provided by a 40 watt bulb, of all the taverna-loo experiences of yesteryear. I'm sure you know the drill. Quite often you could enter the cubicle to find that the whole tiny room is tiled up to about eye-height, which gives one the distinct impression that the place is OK. I mean OK as in creepy-crawly-free. The mistake one would make was to look higher than the top layer of tiles. This loo was very much in the old style. The tiles (although a mucky brown colour; why do they do that?) did indeed go up to about eye height, but above that the walls were a kind of very rough stucco effect, with every little ridge of the stuff thick with dust. There was no window to speak of, merely two or three unfinished holes through the walls where some pipes ran, and through which there was only dense darkness to be seen. Add to the effect created by this uncertainty the fact that the edges of these holes were well lined with old cobwebs and you have the makings of a Greek-loo danger alert. See, the thing is, you could complete your business in such a cubicle with no problem whatsoever and most times will, but there is always that horrible possibility that something with more than two legs, and in the worst case scenario, eight, could emerge from one of these apertures and you, that's if you're a bloke of course, can't do a thing about it. I mean, whilst you're busy making sure that your aim is steady, you can't afford to go thrashing around in wild attempts to extinguish the life of some scary scuttling thing which threatens to jump on to your face, now can you? And let's be honest, as and when such creatures do faze you, they're always going to be hatching a plan to jump on to you aren't they? Of course they are.

Anyway, I survived and was soon back outside in the sunshine, allowing my cold sweat to gradually dry. Tell you what, those fading b-list folk on "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here" (which I've never watched anyway) wouldn't stand an earthly in an old-style Greek loo. There are still some to be found in Arhangelos, take it from me. Mind you, as a plus-point, the drinks were cheap and we were soon strolling back to Josie's, having received a text saying that she was now home.

Not long afterwards I was again up on the wall and Josie was directing as to which boughs would have to go and which could stay to fight another day. Once we'd lopped most of the poor unfortunate tree's last decade of growth, we were faced with the task of clipping all the stuff I'd cut down to manageable size for disposal. Once again I was chainsawing the larger boughs and branches, with Josie and Y-Maria secateuring for all they were worth, when two women from across the road, both in black and probably widowed, approached up the lane from the street excitedly pointing at the smaller logs and twigs that had begun to pile up on Josie's path. We hailed them. They replied, pretty sharpish:

"What are you going into do with that wood? Can we have it? We don't have fuel for the winter, we haven't got a man to cut it for us. Could we have it, please? Could we?" Oddly enough, they were carrying a couple of plastic crates. Nothing like thinking positively is there.

My wife's first reaction was to say that we have a log-burner and so would be taking it home, but she quickly realised that it would be a nice gesture to let these women have it. We already had plans to go logging with some of our neighbours later in the week and they have a trailer, so we're not going to go short this winter anyway.

When we told Josie's two unfortunate neighbours that they could indeed have the wood, they were very excited and arrived at our sides in seconds. No sooner could I cut some foot-long logs and branches than they had them stacked into the crates and before long we'd cut all that we could that would be of any use. They were very appreciative and couldn't thank us enough. They asked us to convey their appreciation to the Anglida (the Englishwoman) and swore that they thought she was only inches short of being beatified. Whilst me and the missus headed off in the car to purchase some heavy duty black bags, Josie and the two neighbours three-handedly carried a huge pile of green waste on a tarpaulin about fifty metres to the nearest wheelie bin and shot the whole lot into it.

Buying black bags is another palaver. In the UK you just nip into any local store and there's a nice choice of variously sized and coloured bags, usually sold in a roll of, say, ten. You can select the heavy duty ones (usually black) and soon be back home stuffing them for all you're worth. Here it's not quite as straightforward. The only supermarkets which seem to have a regular supply are those in Rhodes town, which is, of course, a bit far for the likes of us to just nip out and buy some. We tried the DIY store within walking distance of Josie's, no joy. Then we drove to the large builders' merchant on the main road, where an excited woman at the till shouted instructions to a bloke who ran up this aisle and down that one, (It was like supermarket sweep, only without the 'sweep') only to finally discover that they only had the small domestic ones, fit for the kitchen bin. I mean, why would a huge builders' merchant, with piles of bricks and sand outside in the yard, only stock tiny domestic rubbish bags?

Anyway, off we went again and went into the garden centre, also on the main road. We like this place and the people who run it are a very friendly and helpful family. I'd been in there very recently to buy a new yard brush, so the girl behind the counter greeted me warmly and asked what I'd forgotten to buy from before. I told her I wanted some heavy duty plastic bags. She replied:

"What are you going to use them for?" I was tempted to say I'd chopped up the body of the bloke I'd just axe-murdered and the heavy duty ones tended to be better for not leaking blood, but thought better of it.
"I've got a lot of garden waste. You know, pointy twigs and stuff too."

"Aah," she replied, with some degree of drama I thought. "You'll be wanting the black ones then." She said this as though wanting the "black" ones meant I'd reeeeally got a job on my hands.
"Yes, I would." I replied. She began to retreat from the desk and, just as she was disappearing behind a shelf unit stacked with all kinds of whatever, into the bowels of the "staff-only" area, she called out,

"How many do you want?"
I was tempted to reply, 'three hundred', when it struck me that they didn't have these in paper-wrapped rolls of ten then. 

"Ten would do!" I answered.

There then came the sound of all sorts of activity, involving a fair bit of that noise that PVC sacks make when being man (or woman in this case) - handled. Some minutes later she finally emerged and came to the desk carrying the bags. Eureka! I thought. "How much?" I asked, fully expecting this to knock me sideways, when she said "€3.50 please."

Not half bad in the end. Once we'd returned to Josie's and inspected them we were well pleased and Josie agreed that these would be re-usable for quite some time to come. The only irritant was how much a of rigmarole it had been to finally procure them. We were reminded of the time when we'd tried to buy hot water bottles. We'd had to go to the pharmacy in the end and the assistant had brought them out from the deepest recesses of the storeroom behind the counter. Dangerous things hot water bottles if they happen to fall into the wrong hands. Likewise black bags I'd say.


  1. Nice one John.

    By sheer coincidence I have just read the chapter in your book about moving plants from Lindos to Josie's new gaff in Arhangelos.


    1. That chapter's in book 3, "Tzatziki" isn't it? Do try and keep up Dave!! Or are you reading it for a 2nd time?